"We have not exhausted our non-military options in confronting the Iranian threat;
in many ways, we have yet to try them," Sen. Barack Obama says on his Web site. "If
Iran abandons it nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives
like membership in the World Trade Organization."
It was Albert Einstein who first defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and
over again and expecting different results."
"Perhaps Mr. Obama is unaware that one of (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad's
first acts was to freeze Tehran's efforts for securing WTO membership because he
regards the outfit as 'a nest of conspiracies by Zionists and Americans,'" wrote
Amir Taheri in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday.
In 2006, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice offered Iran a package of incentives
including "improving Iran's access to the international economy, markets and
capital, through practical support for full integration into international
structures, including the WTO..."
Sen. Obama can escape Einstein's charge of insanity by pleading ignorance. He didn't
know about U.S. overtures to Iran, or Mr. Ahmadinejad's rejection of them. But
shouldn't a candidate for president know these things?
In last week's column, I twitted Sen. Obama for saying he'd campaigned in 57 states,
for not knowing that his home state of Illinois borders on Kentucky, and for
claiming the Cuban Missile Crisis (October, 1962) was defused by President Kennedy's
summit meeting with Nikita Khruschchev (June, 1961). Earlier, Sen. Obama said
10,000 people were killed when a tornado struck Greensburg, Kansas last year (the
death toll was 12), and assumed Afghans speak Arabic (they don't).
After Sen. Obama took opposite sides on successive days last week on whether
Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez should be engaged or isolated, ABC's Jake Tapper
described him as "a one man gaffe machine." And that was before his Memorial Day
Speaking in New Mexico, Sen. Obama seemed not to understand Memorial Day honors
those who died in war, and claimed his uncle was one of the soldiers who liberated
the Auschwitz concentration camp. Since Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army,
and Barack's mom was an only child, this is unlikely.
When this misstatement was spotted by bloggers, the Obama campaign said the senator
had in mind his great uncle, Charles W. Payne, who, the campaign said, had served in
the 89th Infantry Division, which liberated Ohrdruf, a slave labor camp that was a
satellite of Buchenwald. This explanation has satisfied most journalists. But
Charles W. Payne is not listed on the roster of the 89th Infantry Division, perhaps
because the Kansas State Historical Society says Charles W. Payne entered the Navy
on Nov. 10, 1942.
Sen. Obama has told the Auschwitz story before. But in an Oct. 2, 2002 speech, the
protagonist was his grandfather:
"My grandfather signed up for the war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought
in Patton's army," Mr. Obama said then. "He saw the dead and dying across the
fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz
(Stanley Dunham entered the Army on June 18, 1942. Treblinka, which, like Auschwitz,
is in Poland, was liberated by the Red Army.)
It isn't a good idea to take what Sen. Obama says at face value. As facts emerged,
he issued eight different descriptions of his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah
Wright. The "uncle at Auschwitz" story might be again revised.
Dan Quayle was just 41 and looked younger when George H. W. Bush plucked him from
relative obscurity to be his running mate. Journalists portrayed Mr. Quayle as
inexperienced and not too bright, an image cemented on June 15, 1992, when, while
officiating at a spelling bee in Trenton, New Jersey, he corrected a 12-year-old's
spelling of "potato," telling the boy there was an e on the end.
Mr. Quayle was wrong, but not terribly. "Potatoe" was an accepted spelling through
the 19th Century, and the error was on a cue card provided by school authorities.
But journalists needed no further proof that Dan Quayle was a dunce.
Journalists have been more kind to Sen. Obama, though his gaffes exceed those of Mr.
Quayle, and he has less experience. Mr. Quayle had served four years in the House
and eight in the Senate before becoming vice president.
Still, the question arises: Can Barack Obama spell "potato?"